Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The yelling mark!!!

"Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes." (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

I love my job. There is something refreshing about being in charge of my day and never knowing what to expect. And I get continual proof that kids do, indeed, say the damndest things. There was the ever inspiring philosophical line, blurted out during the middle of a test, "Wouldn't it be cool if we all had expiration dates stamped on our butts? You know...kind of like how Cabbage Patch Kids have a signature? We'd have a date, and then we'd know when we were going to die. We might live differently then." Then she went right back to taking her test, which, incidentally, had nothing to do with dying, dolls, or dates.

And there are always the questions, constant and comical: "Did we do anything while I was gone?" "Do I have to do this?" and every English teacher's favorite..."Can I go to the bathroom?" So, contrary to popular belief, there ARE stupid questions...in fact, in middle school they abound...like oversexed little rabbits, they multiply.

But, today, it was a new kind of stupidity...and it made me laugh out loud (my only other option was to get all persnickety about how important punctuation is, become completely indignant, and sigh in exasperation at the rampant ignorance of the child in front of me). But, I took the high road...mostly because it was just too funny to not laugh. After all, he isn't MY kid, and I don't have to worry about his future.

So a little background. We do daily warm-ups to practice punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. In order to keep it from getting dry and boring, I occasionally use captioned pictures from www.icanhazcheezburger.com. The pic for today was:

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So, I was calling on students to explain how they fixed the sentence. That's when it happened. A student who never raises his hand (and when he does, it's never to say anything intelligent, so I should have seen it coming) begins waving his hand and wiggling like a pre-schooler whining, "Pick me! Pick me!" Against my better judgment, caught in the excitement over the fact that he was finally offering to answer a question after sleeping for 3 days in class, I say, "Yes, John? Do you think you have it?" "Yeah! Capitalize the H but leave the rest of the letters in the word little." "Is that it?" "Yeah." He looks at me, sort of deflated, as if he's disappointed that I'm not having a party because he said more than three words today. He's obviously proud of himself. "John, don't you need some sort of punctuation here?" I think...it's a gimme...he'll get it now. "Oh, yeah!" He lights up like Main Street at night during the Christmas season. "You need one of those....those...yelling marks." Pause for reaction.

I couldn't help it. I just bent over and started to laugh and shake my head. After I'd composed myself, I looked up at him, "A yelling mark?" "Well, yeah...I forget what they're really called."

Mind you, these kids are 12. It's not like they haven't had punctuation lessons for oh, say, 5 years now. Yes, kids do say the damndest things. And every day, when I COULD cry...I laugh. It's the only way I stay sane.

P.S. Another kid in class wondered, quite vocally, why the kitty in the picture was so skinny.

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